Jacques Derrida knew this, commenting on travel narrative – he identifies two ‘risks’ of travelogues in the possible meanings of the terms we use: ‘The first is that of selectivity’ and he describes a ‘recit raisonne’ as a ‘narrative that, more than others, filters or sifts out the supposedly significant features – and thus begins to censor’ (Derrida 1993:197-8); and the second, from the first; ‘raisonner also signifies, in this case, to rationalise … active overinterpretation’ (Derrida 1993:198). These two themes of perspective and ordering selection are the themes for a necessary work which will take up the call (this is not the only call) for a Marxist analysis of trinkets, and of the coin the buys them, so as to open up a ‘systematic reflection on the relations between tourism and political analysis’ at a time when tourism has become highly ‘organised’. Derrida writes that such an analysis ‘would have to allow a particular place to the intellectual tourist (writer or academic) who thinks he or she can, in order to make them public, translate his or her ‘travel impressions’ into a political diagnostic’ (Derrida 1993:215).
So, here is another little travel story. From the London Tube. And about a trinket called Dum Dum – double stupidity.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission report on the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes was revealed today – six long months after it was given to the Crown Prosecution Service, way back in January, and only now they are about, perhaps, to act on it .The report has been said to recommend that the 2 Police who shot Jean Charles, and the chief cop running the action (Cressida Dick), should be prosecuted for manslaughter. (Why not murder?). We have been here before, and everyone knows from the film Injustice that talk of even a manslaughter charge doesn’t mean there is much hope of a conviction of cops who kill (too many other examples go against that forlorn hope for legal justice). The resonances in this case are too strange for me not to think something very weird is going to happen every time I mind the gap.
For starters, the strange peripheral bit that grabs me is that the police shooters operating under Kratos shoot to kill ‘rules’ of engagement used Dum Dum bullets and these little beauties were said to be less dangerous for the general public. Of course this is madness – what are the BBC thinking in saying this? Is that what it said in the advertising brochure when the MET went to the arms fair to buy them, from the Lord of War himself AKA Nicolas Cage?.
It also seems patently wrong that there is a body set up to decide in advance that cops who kill should face watered down charges. Even though the Independent Police Complaints Authority does say the 2 cops and Commander Dick should be charged, they mean charged only with manslaughter – and this comes after the operation report of the action was ‘corrected’ or amended. Surely the courts themselves (if not the people’s court) should get to decide the significance of this? What is to say there are not other tamperings and fiddlings with the facts? And in singling out Dick and the trigger happy killers, have they not let Commissioner Ian Blair (head MET cop) off the hook as well – all these people are involved in a murder; I mean, they had him held down, pinned, motionless… this was a death in custody, wasn’t it? Another one.
I hate to say it, but this just presses all of my buttons. Dum Dum is in Calcutta, the capital of West Bengal, where you can find the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose airport, itself built on the site where British Raj era soldiers invented the bullet also known as ‘dum dum’ – an onomatopoeic name from the sound of the bullet leaving the gun, then exploding inside the target – a doubled report, a nasty little piece of weaponry, brutal in its effects. Used to kill Afridi tribesmen in the North West Frontier. Which charmingly links the police of the Stockwell killing directly to the colonialism of many years ago, but no-one will really be surprised. And of course this kind of Police protection (protection of us, they are there using Dum Dum bullets to protect us – I believe it!) is clearly linked to the themes of the film Injustice and deaths in custody – Jean Charles was in custody when he was killed, they have a duty of care. This is something I have written about elsewhere, both in terms of the concerns of the film, and in general with detention issues in the wake of the War of Terror. But now I am interested in how operation Kratos is an updated version of those old manuals of procedure that James Bond must have memorised, that offer up the blow by blow (literally) guide book of how to deal with protesters, miscreants, threats to the state and other average citizens. What did that Nick Cage type goon say at the arms fair anyway: ‘Hey, pssst, over here … these bullets are great, they explode inside the victims head'; ‘Yeah, wow, gimme a couple of dozen boxes, we can use them on public transport'; ‘Safety first, dib dib dib’.
Finally, it drives me nuts to endure the stupidity of BBC news reports that continue to repeat the fudge that implies Jean Charles was somehow not just a member of the public – a public, qivvering before its screens, that is now going to be so much safer because the Kratos shoot to kill policy is mitigated by these Dum Dum bullets… Such is the danger to our tube travellers and other denizens of the city that by the middle of last year this Kratos policy had been called upon 250 times, and almost used 7 times – and, obviously, really was used the once. Dum really Dum.
I am reassured once again that only in Nepal has there been any repeal of new terror laws – the rest of us are protected, so we can travel safe. As I keep saying over and over (refine and streamline, diagnose, repeat). Tubes run on time thank Ken, and they are safer now, thank Bliar. Aren’t we living in the best of all worlds?
> The travel text is from Derrida, Jacques 1993, ‘Politics and Friendship: An Interview’, in Kaplan, E. Ann & Sprinkler, Michael 1993, The Althusserian Legacy, Verso, New York, pp. 183-232.
> The picture is honour of Jean Charles de Menezes, tube traveller. In need of proper justice.